|Aurelia Florian as Violetta. All photos by Cory Weaver.|
San Francisco OperaLa Traviata
October 1, 2017
A lavishly appointed, vocally rich production brought out the finer points in Verdi’s romantic classic, elucidating perhaps the biggest misconception about the story. It’s not about love; it’s about power.
Traviata is considered one of Verdi’s “lighter” works, an understandable conclusion when viewed against the political intensity of works like Il Trovatore, Rigoletto and Macbeth. Traviata’s first act seems especially frothy, a Parisian soiree at which Alfredo Germont woos the beautiful courtesan Violetta Valery.
But power and how it is wielded has always been Verdi’s focus, and it doesn’t take long to arrive. In Act II, after Alfredo and Violetta have settled into their countryside house, Alfredo’s father, Giorgio, arrives to do battle with the woman he claims is “leading my son to his ruin.” As it turns out, Violetta has taken the proto-feminist move of financing their country retreat herself, by selling off her possessions. Germont responds to this news by decrying the shame of having his son supported by Violetta’s illicit career. (Clearly the man is an a-hole.)
|Artur Rucinski as Germont.|
He instructs her to “Tell him you don’t love him.” When he sees her pain, he has the gall to say, “I feel your suffering.” (Seriously, what a douche.) Verdi does his best to redeem Germont later in the opera, but I still consider him one of the more evil villains in the canon.
Artur Rucinski plays Germont as a cold-blooded assassin, civil and calm as he very nicely destroys his target. Rucinski’s baritone is rich and assured, a particular pleasure in “Di Provenza il mar,” a tribute to Germont’s family home.
|Aurelia Florian as Violetta, Atalla Ayan as Alfredo.|
Atalla Ayan performs Alfredo with a delicious tenor tone, quite lyrical but endowed with force at the necessary moments. His “Di quell’amor” is just the heartwarming serenade it’s intended to be, and he brings out the engaging musicality in the perhaps underappreciated passages at the opening of Act II.
|Spanish dancers Lorena Feijoo, Bryon Ketron and Blanche Hampton.|
|John Conklin's set, from the 1987 John Copley production.|
Through Oct. 17, War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Avenue. $26-$398. www.sfopera.com, 415/864-3330.
Michael J. Vaughn is a thirty-year opera critic, and author of twenty novels, including the recently released Figment, available at Amazon.com. Operaville was recently rated the eighth-best opera blog in the world by Feedspot.com.